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  • Writer's pictureLizzie Hessek

White and Sticky: A Journey to the Perfect Bowl of Rice

So this isn't Baking and Beer Friday... but it is Cooking and Cointreau!

It is not a lie that since Rachel and I returned from Japan we have been eating a lot of rice. Like, I-get-up-30-minutes-earlier-to-cook-the-rice-every-day kind of a lot of rice. In fact, Rachel just texted me - just now, on her way home from work - and said, "I'm hungy, can you make some rice?" This is no joke, y'all. We were transformed by the delicious rice our host in Tokyo, Tomok, made us for breakfast every morning. Our breakfasts always consisted of miso soup, pickled vegetables, salad, fruit, tamagoyaki (a Japanese omelet), tofu, and rice.

We loved it. Now, Tomok is better than we are in pretty much every way, so we were never planning on recreating her meals entirely. We decided that the one element that we could master all by ourselves in America without any special equipment was the delicious sticky rice. And master it we did! And now, I will share that mastery with you.

If you have a rice cooker, you do not need these instructions. You have technology. But if you just blew all your cash on a trip to Japan, for example, you might not have the funds to acquire a rice cooker right now. That's ok. You and I will cook rice in a dutch oven together.

First, let me say this: ever since I started bringing sticky rice in my lunch every day, I have been fielding comments from rice poo-pooers. I had been naive to the existence of rice poo-pooers! I want all you rice poo-pooers to know that, when done well, rice can take on delicately sweet, nutty, and floral flavors. The sticky variety can fill you up for hours. I do not care about any nutritional facts you might know about white rice - that is not what life is about. Now follow these instructions and learn to love rice again.

1.) Prepare your ingredients:

1 cup of sushi rice

That's it! Look at those little short grains. Adorable.

2.) Polish your rice.

This is an important step. The sushi rice is already quite polished (that's how you call it when the brown outer husk is removed from the kernel), but the rice grains are still coated in a fine layer of starch. The rice will be stickier and tastier if we wash that starch dust off.

Put your cup of rice in a fine mesh strainer and run water over it. Use your hands to massage the rice. Rub the rice together under the water. Keep washing and rubbing the rice until the water that comes out of the sieve is clear. To be completely honest with you, I never do this for long enough to see the water get completely clear, and that hasn't cause me any problems. I do think the rice tastes better depending on how well I polished it, but that is probably in my head.

Rubbing that rice.

3.) Plop the rice in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid such as a dutch oven. The lid is important.

4.) Pour 1 1/4 cups of water over the rice.

5.) Bring the water to a boil.

6.) As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot. This steams the rice. Leave the pot alone for 10 minutes.

Just walk away from it and let it steam.

7.) After 10 minutes, turn the heat off. Take off the lid and stir the rice. Fluff it up. There will probably be some rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. That's ok. Now spread the rice out evenly over the bottom again. Drape a clean dish towel over the rice. Put the lid back on the pot over the dish towel. This absorbs some of the residual moisture and makes the rice super fluffy.

Again, make sure the stove is off. We don't want you to catch your kitchen towel on fire making rice.

Now you have perfect, fluffy, sticky rice! Nice work!

There is so much you can do with this major success. You can eat it just like that. You can stuff it inside of a fried tofu pouch. You can cover it with seaweed and eat it with your hands. Or you can make yakionigiri! Yakionigiri is fried rice ball. It sounds boring and bland, but trust me, it's killer.

The first thing you do is place a chunk of sticky rice in plastic wrap. The rice is too sticky to manipulate with bare hands. Using your hands, shape the rice into a triangle. Do this with each rice chunk until it is all gone.

Now heat up some sesame oil in a cast iron pan and grill those suckers until they are brown and crispy. Do not flip back and forth. Let one side cook at a time. The outside will be crispy and the inside will be gooey. Serve this to your friends and they will know that you, too, have mastered sticky rice. Go you.

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